It’s beautiful here today, in an odd, subdued sort of way. I went for a walk and gazed out over the Sound an hour or so ago. Everything is grey – the sky, the water – but it’s a bright, translucent grey in places. The clouds are shapey and various as opposed to being a single pewter-coloured blanket, and there are places where the sun almost shines through them, so in the distance the water is quite silvery. I’ve been back for a week (plus a bit). Things have shaken down as they do after a trip (that’s one of the fun things about trips: the sense of strangeness when you get back), and I’ve had time to think it over and consider the high points. (Mind you, they were all fairly high, apart from one very rainy afternoon when I insisted on going for a walk anyway, and a couple of traffic jams, and the casual little walk I took the morning I left, so casual I didn’t take the A to Z, which ended in my getting more lost than I’ve ever been, and accidentally walking almost to the Tower instead of back to Bedford Square.)
It was fun meeting my colleague. It’s been fun not meeting my colleague all this time – there’s something quite entertaining about collaborating with someone that, um, collaboratively, for that long, without having ever met. I enjoyed the paradox of knowing each other quite well in one way and not at all in the more usual one. The well-known oddity of Internet acquaintanceship. But after all this time – collaborating for two years, chatting for three – I was curious about the more usual version. So it was fun. And he was a very kind host. He showed me the sights – the nice new(ish) mall, Safeway, Waterstone’s, Smiths. Leith Hill, Box Hill. He also showed me ‘The Office’ in its entirety, and Dream Theater – not to mention Spike. All good stuff. It was also fun meeting Julian, though that was much briefer, he was only in London for a couple of days – he’s a busy guy. The two of them talked about things I didn’t understand, which was a nice humbling experience (not that I needed it – I’m extremely humble already, as I keep saying, in my humble way). Vagueness, they talked about. I could follow what they were saying, it didn’t seem like gibberish or anything, but I couldn’t have added anything to it if you’d put a gun to my head.
On the other hand, sad to say, I didn’t get to meet another virtual friend I had hoped to. He was going to be in London for a few days and it was all planned and then I couldn’t make it after all; that was very disappointing. Oh well – I’ll just have to go back, that’s all.
And then there are the high points of London itself (never mind the low ones, they’re not my problem, because I don’t live there). Richmond Park, that view from Terrace Gardens (I visited it three times – can never get enough of that view), Wimbledon Common (I’d always meant to explore that a bit and now I have – very good. There’s a part with long tawny grass and birch trees that is very satisfying), Hampstead Heath, the Hill and the Pergola, Nonsuch. You’ll notice I like commons and heaths and the like. Well, I do. Regent’s Park, Waterlow Park, Green Park, Holland Park, Ranelagh Gardens, Bishop’s Park – I love them all. I could just stay home and walk in a lot of fields, but…it’s not the same. And the new stuff – the Eye, and Tate Modern, and the Gherkin, and the Globe, and the shaky bridge. In fact bridges in general – I could do a little aria to London bridges. Waterloo, Westminster, Blackfriars, Battersea, Albert, Putney, Hammersmith, Kew, Richmond, Kingston. And then river walks. The walk from Blackfriar’s Bridge to the Tate is pretty staggering, for instance.
Okay, I’ll shut up now. A lot of you already know this anyway because you live right there, and others do because you’ve visited, and the rest don’t care. Although I could always say this is a post for City Comforts. Because London’s lavish hand with parks and commons is one of the things that make it a great city (while the traffic rules are one of the things that make it a terrible one), and its river is another. So this is a kind of implicit discussion of urban planning. (Seattle doesn’t have anywhere near enough parks and parkland. There are very few places in Seattle where one can go for the kind of really long walk through park or parks that one can go for in most of London. That’s bad.)